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Rachmaninov / Tchaikovsky - The Barbican Trio, G. Lester, violin, R. Max, cello, J. Kirby, piano

Rachmaninov / Tchaikovsky - The Barbican Trio, G. Lester, violin, R. Max, cello, J. Kirby, piano-Piano
ID: GMCD7242 (EAN: 795754724226)  | 1 CD | DDD
Released in: 2002
Guild GmbH
RACHMANINOV, Sergey Vasil'yevich | TCHAIKOVSKY, Pyotr Il'yich
KIRBY, James (piano) | LESTER, Gabrielle (violin) | MAX, Robert (cello)
Other info:

Recorded: St Paul’s School, London 13-15 April 2001
RACHMANINOV, Sergey Vasil'yevich (1873-1943) 
1. Trio in G minor Élégiaque - Lento Lugubre15:03 
TCHAIKOVSKY, Pyotr Il'yich (1840-1893) 
2. Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 - Moderato assai19:43 
Tema con Variazioni 
3. Tema: Andante con moto0:56 
4. Variation I0:54 
5. Variation II - Piu mosso0:36 
6. Variation III - Allegro moderato0:56 
7. Variation IV - L'istesso tempo1:08 
8. Variation V - L'istesso tempo0:46 
9. Variation VI - Tempo di Valse2:50 
10. Variation VII - Allegro moderato1:17 
11. Variation VIII - Fuga: Allegro moderato2:43 
12. Variation IX - Andante fl ebile, ma non tanto3:34 
13. Variation X - Tempo di Mazurka1:47 
14. Variation XI - Moderato2:38 
15. Variazione Finale e Coda - Allegro risoluto e con fuoco - Andante con moto - Lugubre12:39 


Towards the end of the 19th century three prominent Russian composers wrote Elegiac works in memory of colleagues. Each found that the intimacy of a chamber ensemble could best express their wealth of emotion and each created masterpieces whose stature and power has enjoyed ever increasing recognition with age.

Tchaikovsky's third String Quartet, dating from 1875, was written in memory of the violinist Ferdinand Laub, first violinist in the Moscow String Quartet from 1866 until 1874. Six years later Tchaikovsky learned of the death of his friend the pianist Nicolai Rubinstein and his A minor Piano Trio is dedicated to the memory of this great artist. Laub's quartet had given first performances of Tchaikovsky's D major and F major quartets and it must have seemed natural to compose a String Quartet as a tribute. Tchaikovsky selected the spectacularly gloomy key of E-flat minor for this intense work. However with the Piano Trio Tchaikovsky sought not only to celebrate Rubinstein's pianism with a rich and often virtuosic work for the piano, but also to satisfy the demands of his patron Nadezhda von Meck who had requested such a work for her own piano trio.

Tchaikovsky's death in 1893 inspired Anton Arensky (1861-1906) to write one of his greatest compositions, the second String Quartet in A minor Op.35. The melody of the Orthodox Requiem is woven into the fabric of the music and the scoring for one violin, one viola and two cellos gives the music a uniquely oppressive bearing. The young Rachmaninoff also poured his feelings into a chamber work on hearing this news, in this instance a second Piano Trio, the Trio Élégiaque op.9 in D minor. The work has been noted for its "overwhelming aura of gloom" and follows Tchaikovsky's own path with a two-movement shape, the second of which is also a set of variations.

But only a year earlier Rachmaninoff had performed in the premiere of his first work for Piano Trio, the single movement G minor Trio Élégiaque with violinist David Kreyn and cellist Anatoly Brandukov. Perhaps the lack of a famous dedicatee, combined with the fact that the work remained unpublished for a long time contributed to its relative neglect. Maybe its proximity to the completion of his studies at the Moscow Conservatory led to its perception as being merely the work of a student. Yet its freshness, its outbursts of unbridled passion and the soulful qualities of its melodies combine to form a unique work that never fails to make its mark. The abundance of ideas undoubtedly reflects the expanded form of the 1st movement of Tchaikovsky's Trio, the blending of the sound of the strings to balance the piano is clearly derived from the earlier work and the way the opening melody is recast as a ghostly funeral march on the closing page pays homage to the older composer's Trio.

Tchaikovsky's Trio received its premier ten years earlier in 1882 with the noted composer and pianist Taneiev at the piano, Géimali playing the violin and Fitzenhagen (for whom the Rococo Variations were written) playing the cello. Following the first performance the composer indicated a possible cut in the final variation and the optional omission of Variation 8, the fugue, but as this music is undoubtedly as fine as the rest of the Trio we always enjoy performing it complete. Although the first movement employs a wealth of thematic material and expands sonata form to an unprecedented degree, the form is in fact ultimately truncated: the abrupt reprise of the lyrical violin and cello duet suddenly turns into a bridge towards the poignant coda. The burgeoning rapture of the music is kept in check by a central Adagio con duolo e ben sostenuto which is itself a premonition of the finale's funereal conclusion.

Each variation of the second movement is said to portray some incident in Nicolai Rubinstein's life. Modest Tchaikovsky, the composer's brother, wrote "in May 1873 a group of professors at the Moscow Conservatory went for a country walk, in the course of which Nicolai Rubinstein provided a repast for the peasants. Being a great lover of genuine folk music and dances, he asked the peasants to sing and dance, which they did. Tchaikovsky never forgot this scene and it was the memory of it that suggested, nearly nine years after, the theme of this (the second) movement". (c) Robert Max 2001


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